I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
I had been pastor of my first church for only a few months when I made the naive decision to preach on Romans 9, a passage about predestination. I preached my sermon, balancing God’s sovereignty with human responsibility. But on Monday morning, I got word that the deacons were having an emergency meeting. We gathered in the fellowship hall, and charges were presented that I was a heretic. So I went through a detailed study with them, explaining what the Bible says about predestination and human responsibility. When I finished, an elder deacon said, “Pastor, you are free to preach that wherever you want to preach it, but not in this church.”
This controversy is nothing new, so I thought it would be interesting to look at two systems of belief regarding God’s sovereignty and its relationship to human responsibility. The first is Calvinism. Calvinism is a system of belief that emphasizes God’s sovereign choice in salvation. It is based on the teaching of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. His teaching was summarized by his followers in what is often called the five points of Calvinism. These five points of Calvinism can be summarized in an acrostic that spells out the word “tulip.” So, today, we are going to tiptoe carefully through the TULIP.
The “T” stands for total depravity. Calvinists believe man was so corrupted by the Fall that he is spiritually dead and cannot on his own trust in Christ as Savior apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. No man can choose to believe; God has to regenerate him. That is total depravity.
The “U” stands for unconditional election. God chose certain people to be saved apart from anything they would or would not do in the future. Calvinists do not believe election is based on God’s foreknowledge of what someone would do if given a chance to accept the gospel; instead, they say that God’s choice in election is apart from anything the sinner may or may not do.
The “L” stands for limited atonement. Calvinists believe that Christ died for the sins of the elect, not for the sins of the world. If Christ died for the sins of the world, they reason, then all the world would be saved, which is universalism. So Christ died only for the sins of the elect.
The “I” stands for irresistible grace. Calvinists say that if God has called you to be saved, then you cannot resist His grace. Your salvation is certain. God’s grace is irresistible for the elect.
The “P” stands for perseverance of the saints. Those who are elected by God are secured by God, and nothing will change that. If you are truly one of the elect, then your faith will persevere until the end. If it does not, then it shows you are not one of the elect. That is Calvinism in a nutshell.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Is God Unfair?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.